Unpacking the University of the Future

The university of the future should be able to shape the direction of the future industrial revolutions and this necessitates the revisit of the essence of universities or our core functions of producing graduates and training the manpower who will man and plan the industries. Knowledge creation or generation that’s depending on your school of thought. Frankly, at the university at UPOU, we are still discussing whether it’s knowledge creation or knowledge generation because we also differ in our schools of thought and that’s through our research whether it’s creation or generation development but the thing is the strategy is through research and working together and society engagement as part of our social responsibility.

The university of the future however pushes the forefront important concepts like future-proof degrees and future ready leaders with the ethical and open science perspectives. When we talk of future-proof degrees, we refer to the basic qualifications of training that would facilitate the individuals to undergo career shifts throughout his or her lifetime and would serve as foundations for life-long learning. Economies say young people should plan for five careers in a lifetime so are we preparing our students and our graduates towards that. In short, are the degrees we are offering future-proof? Three years ago, the world economic forum predicted 65 percent primary school-aged children will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist so how are we preparing our universities for that kind of scenario? Considering the dynamics that impact education, future group degrees call for a future-proof education system which has the essence of education 6.0 the way we articulated it and which can be described for me at least in my own articulation of it is education with a conscience. 

The future-proof education puts premium to tertiary education degrees. We still see tertiary education degrees as still necessary to provide the theoretical foundation on basic disciplines to further the development of industries and technologies for the welfare of the people. Without the theoretical foundation there’s no way we could advance the knowledge. The curriculum serves as the platform for students to not just learn the current knowledge and skills but also to theorize and contribute to the building of knowledge in the discipline that would shape the future of innovations and industries. Since academic disciplines are not stand alone disciplines but in real life are intertwined with each other the convergence or the purely disciplinarity which I think characterizes what we are doing now. It’s not just multi, it’s really the plurality of the disciplines wherein one has to engage in. It characterizes the future-proof degrees and it will be the new normal. This kind of individuals is now becoming evident in the way the future of industries is being described through industry 5.0 wherein people will work side by side with machine to further improve people’s standard and quality of life. The future-proof curricula provide for a teaching and learning strategy that would integrate the acquisition of future-proof competencies that will enable individuals to respond to the current demands of industry, the flexibility and agility to adjust to the fast-changing world of life and work and the disposition to continue learning and make sense through critical reflection of the volume of information being made available at an exponential rate as well as the relevant ethical and moral values. Gig learning which is now on the rise as a response to the emerging gig economy still relies on a strong theoretical foundation which can only be provided by future-proof degrees. Needless to say, the future-proof curricula is envisioned to produce future-ready leaders. 

The university of the future helps shape the industry through it’s open science based knowledge creation and generation function. Open science is not only about sharing the results of research but covers the whole research cycle thus, fostering, sharing and collaboration among the stakeholders of science and innovations for most of which are the supposed to be beneficiaries of all these innovations, the people. Open science thus puts people in the center of innovations and at present can be concretized by anchoring what we are doing to sustainable development goals which is the three bottom line the people, the planet and the social profit. The social profit is an outcome of social capital resulting from the university’s engagement with society or what we commonly referred as public service can be considered as the apex of the configuration of the university of the future with all bottom lines pointing to a core component, the people which likewise implies openness and inclusion. Incidentally, we regard this openness in education and the practice of open pedagogy which we hope to see more in the future. There is a recent development with the UNESCO recommendation to promote access to educational resources for all being adopted by the general conference of UNESCO which just happened yesterday. This implies that we should be seeing governments including our government to be adopting in putting in place policies to promote or facilitate access to educational resources so we at the university should anchor our open pedagogy initiatives to that UNESCO move for open educational resources.           

As we continue to reflect on the different dynamics impacting education and universities, there will surely be variations in the articulations of the university of the future so we reflect and we continue to see the different dynamics and definitely there will be different articulations of what the university of the future should be. There will probably be a point of agreement or disagreements but there is that realization that the future is here and actions and transformations will have to be taken now if universities are to remain relevant and for the aforementioned functions, our core functions not to be taken by whatever emerging configuration that would fill the voids left and unaddress by the formal education system represented by us universities. 

Colleagues, fellow academics, the university of the future is not something to be acted upon in the future. The challenges are here and the time to act is now so we hope this conference will be able to provide all of us with some starting points on how we can act and how we can position our universities so that we could start transforming our respective universities to be one of the universities of the future.                               

Chancellor Melinda dela Pena Bandalaria

NCODEL 2019 Pre-Conference Message: Unpacking the University of the Future